Thursday, October 29, 2009

This post could become a story for OhmyNews about the recent LCC Futures conference and the e-book. Last year there were reservations about the e-book but it was seen as inevitable. This year the e-book has definitely arrived. James Fraser spoke about book design, mostly for print, but pointed out that e-books are widely used in publishing for storing the text of several titles at once. Chris Linford claimed it was the illustrations and graphic aspects of books that gives them value and encourages sharing. Ian Lacey suggested that new e-book readers should have a screen for the cover graphic so that people knew what was being read.

There will be more about the conference in the story for Ohmynews. I am working through a video record and hope to put something on YouTube before the story is publshed. Critques of the e-book included that it when web connected it allowed too many chances to link to something else so lacked the structure of a printed book but also that the early devices are like the early web, without the social networking and the associated potential for learning.

Most of this post is about some theory that seems to relate, found through following Cloudworks and Grainne Conole on Twitter. I am beginning to understand why Cloudworks is effective and how it has been designed. Extract slightly edited from

Conole, G., & Culver, J. The design of Cloudworks: Applying social networking practice to foster the exchange of learning and teaching ideas and designs. Computers & Education (2009),

Cloudworks has been developed building on two theoretical perspectives: the notion of social objects and the concept of ‘design for sociality’. There is not space in this paper to go into detail, Conole and Culver (in press) provide a more detailed description on the theoretical underpinnings for the Cloudworks site; key aspects of this are summarised here. Engeström (2005, 2007), drawing on the work of Knorr-Cetina (see for example Knorr-Cetina in Schatzki, 2001), argues for the need to adopt an approach to social networking based on ‘object orientated sociality’ and defines the notion of social objects : The term ’social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. . .

He contends that the definition of a social network as ‘a map of the relationships between people’ is inadequate.
The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected
by a shared object.
He argues that this distinction can be used as a basis for understanding why some social networks are successful whilst others fail. Successful social networking sites built around social objects include Flickr (photos), (bookmarks/urls), YouTube (video clips) and Slideshare (presentations). He puts forward object-orientated sociality as a mechanism for helping us to identify new objects that might be used as the basis for developing new social networking services. He argues that in education the primary social object is content and that
the educational value is not in the content itself but the social interaction that occurs around the content.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual practice. In T. Schatzki (Ed.), The practice turn in contemporary theory. London: Routledge.

Something similar could happen with books or documents through sites such a Scribd or Mendeley. Books are not as advanced as music or video but this idea of "object orientated sociality" is helpful in thinking about how books can develop online. some of the problems from the LCC conference may seem to have been addressed in a year or so.

1 comment:

Grainne Conole said...

yes interesting point in terms of how books might evolve - I think the object-orientated approach has alot going for it. It doesn't mean ego-centric networks are not important too - just that they have a different purpose.